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The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite
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The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  81 ratings  ·  24 reviews
A revolutionary new argument from eminent Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits attacking the false promise of meritocracy

It is an axiom of American life that advantage should be earned through ability and effort. Even as the country divides itself at every turn, the meritocratic ideal - that social and economic rewards should follow achievement rather than breeding - rei
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Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Penguin Press
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  81 ratings  ·  24 reviews


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Peter Mcloughlin
The basic argument is that the meritocracy a system of hierarchy based on recruiting the elite by merit or ability replacing the old wasp ascendancy which seemed like a good idea when initially adopted has hardened into a caste system. The middle-class economy of the mid-twentieth century has since bifurcated and hardened into two categories of jobs and workers. They are the glossy jobs worked by superordinate workers that are high pay, high prestige, high stress, long hours, employing cutthroat ...more
Mehrsa
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I heard Markovits's Yale commencement speech, I shared it with everyone I knew and I was really excited to read the whole book. The book is a bit of a disappointment from where I thought he would go in the speech. I still give it 5 stars though because it's a really important aspect of inequality that we need to talk more about. The disappointment is that besides the brilliant new theories he puts forward (that meritocracy is the new aristocracy), there is a lot of rehashing of the same "id ...more
Richard Thompson
A couple of days after finishing this book, I'm still not sure what to make of it. A lot of it seemed anecdotally true to me. I went to a fancy college and a fancy law school, where I saw many people slaving away at their studies at levels that hardly seemed enjoyable or even productive, just stress inducing. I then went on to work at law firms where people, including me, worked extraordinary hours based on some combination of work ethic, ambition and social pressure, and where material success ...more
Like_magic
Sep 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
The author makes what might seem to be convincing arguments at first (although even this is questionable) but then throughout the book, fails to substantiate his claim. For example, the author claims that education must become more inclusive in that education at premier American schools should not be open only to those who can afford it, that is, the "elite". This is not hard to buy but then he states that the way in which this should occur is taxing these universities more through changes in le ...more
Justin Steele
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Markovits provides a compelling root cause analysis of the extreme inequality we see in the U.S. He shows how rising into the elite class through merotcratic competition and hard work has been morally unassailable and widely accepted the past 50 years. He also shows how through unprecedented personal investments in education and training, the elite class has begun to lock out the middle class from opportunity to join the elite workforce where wealth is increasingly concentrated. Not only does th ...more
John
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great book, which diagnoses the central social issue of time: the growing disparity between elites and the rest, and the social ills that arise from this increasing inequality. The argument is convincing and rigorous, and I think the author is right. I saw myself and my world differently after reading this. Among the best books of the year for me.
Don
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Meritocracy is the champion of equality and the right path for social progression, but is that really so? Daniel Markovits did a spectacular work challenging the assumption and arguing that meritocracy had actually made the lives of middle class AND the elite worse off, by the stagnation in opportunity in the former and increased need of self-sacrifice i.e. more years devoted to getting a top degree, more time spend on a career before to reap rewards. More importantly, Daniel Markovits also show ...more
John Spiller
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars. "The Meritocracy Trap" is a thought-provoking book. Daniel Markovits' thesis is that meritocracy has a corrosive effect on our society, concentrating wealth, opportunities, and prestige with a narrow elite to the exclusion of all other classes. There are no real winners, though. Meritocracy has not only inflicted negative consequences on the losers but the winners as well. Success in meritocracy requires relentless competition, grinding work hours, and lives riddled with continuing an ...more
Fountain Of Chris
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book starts off with a bang. Markovits' introduction has so many assertions that it may be worth reading twice, especially for those of us who have always assumed meritocracy is an unchallengeable good.

It's an interesting thesis. I can envision many people reading the sections about how meritocracy hurts the elite and rolling their eyes, but, by the end of the book, Markovits has made a strong case that "the rich and the rest" can find common ground that benefits them both.
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Jenny
Oct 09, 2019 marked it as abandoned
I read the intro, the first chapter, and the first chapter of Part 2, and I don’t think this is the book for me. I believe deeply that meritocracy is largely a bullshit concept designed to justify maintaining existing power structures so in theory this book is directly aimed at me, but the author seems to make no attempt to either 1) define a framework for what he considers to be meritocracy, and where its boundaries are, or 2) analyze why the stark changes in economic trends in the past five de ...more
Kevin Whitaker
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: policy
Having heard the core thesis on various podcasts, I was excited to read the book, but I came away a bit disappointed. The writing was hard to follow (some facts were repeated several times, there were no charts in the main text even though most of the logic is based in data, and there is some kitchen-sink tendency to throw in lots of facts with different bases at once) and there were almost no cross-country comparisons, which would have been illuminating.

The big idea is still important, and the
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Sergio Alonso De Leon
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A frightening account of what's happening without almost anybody noticing. A system that brings misery to all.

"moving far from home is exciting and even life-affirming for a superordinate worker whose sense of self comes from his job, but it is only frightening and isolating for a middle-class worker, condemned to dead-end jobs, for whom self-esteem stems from communal ties."

“we can have a democratic society or we can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have bo
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William Sowka
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good in getting to the root of the problem (capitalism) but not so good at outlining substantive revolutionary solutions other than a tweek here and there. Meritocracy is just a fictional curtain to convince people that the road to success is through hard work. However, the playing field is rigged in favor of the rich and the end game (money, good job) is wrought with unhappiness and exorbitant stress. No one who works for a living (high or low wage) is truly winning. Maybe the end game nee ...more
Tessa Jones
Oct 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
This author sounds like he is so far removed from the average American reality that he has managed to dream up a fictional justification for his own sense of personal failure within a chaotic world. While I think that he aspires to sound like the great authors of past whose philosophical yammerings were received as deity-less enlightenment, his work reads like an essay that was produced by one of his many students under the influences of some combination of substance abuse and sleep deprivation. ...more
Sal Leggio
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, thought provoking, but I don't know yet if one of his main theses is right. He says the meritocracy tends to favor investment in technologies that strengthen the meritocracy and weaken the middle class. OK, there does seem to be some evidence for that, but why would they do it? To benefit some other meritocrat (whom the first one doesn't know) doesn't seem like a particularly good reason for me. Can he explain that a little better?
Dustin
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The crux of this book's thesis is very interesting and in fact may provide many readers a paradigm shift. However, the book is very poorly written and the thesis is too all-encompassing. It's rather high brow and *extremely repetitive*, making it inaccessible to a lot of people. It shouldn't be more than 1 to 200 pages long. The entire thesis can be explained with an introduction and maybe one chapter. Publishers clearly think they cannot sell shorter books.
Lauren Kalisz
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book builds an interesting argument on how meritocracy has created a new class status divide. Alternatively, I felt that Markovits did tend to make general statements that lacked statistical support. Overall, I found this book to be very thought-provoking on the modern-day strains that society is facing today. Read it!
Mike Cross
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
The author spent too much time defining and replowing the same ground of education and work hours and way too little time on solutions and future effects. Could have been much better. Also skeptical of some of the generalizations considering the "trap" is, at most, a generation in existence.
Peter
Oct 07, 2019 is currently reading it
Just started but heard the author on a podcast. This idea, meritocratic inequality, seems to explain both the underlying money question and also the lived experience of work and family life. Powerful stuff. I will try to update my impressions more later.
Sonja
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was incredibly depressing. It was also a fascinating departure from the culture of hard work, achievement, and merit that undergirds the American experience. I'll have to let this ferment in my brain a bit and re-read it again in a few months.
Chris Dobson
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe this is the book that finally explains what is going on politically in the western world. It certainly rings true to me.
Gina
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was so dry it made me thirsty. If you have trouble sleeping, this is a great read.
Connor Oswald
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'd also recommend pairing this book with age of ambition (about China)
Mary Gearing
Sep 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
Thought-provoking ideas written in a very dry academic style. I'm glad I read it, but I can't say I enjoyed all of it.
Jacob
rated it it was amazing
Oct 02, 2019
Liz Hines
rated it liked it
Sep 26, 2019
Joseph Glandorf
rated it it was amazing
Sep 16, 2019
Eric Thrond
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Sep 28, 2019
George Sykes
rated it it was amazing
Oct 01, 2019
Tom
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Oct 09, 2019
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